Sushma R.Doshi completed her graduation in History from Loreto College, Kolkata. She went on to acquire a Master’s Degree, MPhil and PhD in International Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She dabbles in writing fiction and poetry. Her short stories have been published by Contemporary Literary Review India, Writefluence, Culture Cult Magazine and Press, Indian Periodical amongst others. She is a homemaker and currently lives in India.
I’ve Learnt to Dance
I simply cannot dance. It’s one of my limitations. It’s an issue out here. Every party ends up with everyone dancing to Bollywood hits and I feel out of place. It’s not the party that is the problem…it’s the aftermath. The reels to be made
…the videos to be shot…Click! Click!…to be uploaded on social media. Show everyone that we’re having a grand time…get tizzy over the likes and thumbs ups. It is imperative for my family that I be an active member of this frenzy to convey the image of a wholesome, healthy, happy and hideously rich family. My lack of dancing skills has been disappointing to my family…like the rest of my limitations. My cousins have tried to teach me…one, two, one two and twirl. Mummy still tries to encourage me. But I’ve given up. I just imitate the actions of the rest of the crowd in any party. Move with the phone in my hands holding it above my head. Stare into the screen, shake my head, pout to a few selfies and let everyone take a picture of me clicking selfies. The party’s work is done for me and I dodge my way through the flailing arms and legs to escape in a corner where I can sit, smile and avoid visibility. Someday, I do hope to find what the euphoria of the gyrating mob is about.
It is the 17th of September. Vishwakarma Puja. It is primarily observed in factories and industrial areas. Hindus pray to Lord Vishwakarma, the divine creator and engineer, believed to have created Dwarka, the holy city of Lord Krishna for the smooth functioning of machines, safe working conditions and success for all. My family celebrates it every year at our factory.…the family owned factory which produces all that plastic stuff every common household needs and profits which ensure the lavish lifestyle we are accustomed to.
We arrive at the factory as usual in the morning. Panditji is already there making all the arrangements for the rituals. A picture of Lord Vishwakarma is decorated with flowers and sits on a pedestal. Coconuts and sweets can be seen in the corner along with the other items required for the worship. The machines have been cleaned and are silent today. The employees of the factory are helping out. Workers as they refer to themselves. Laborers as everyone else calls them. Each one dressed in clean and ironed clothes. Their children are also present. Toddlers to teenagers. Some girls in old frocks. A few boys barefooted. But all freshly bathed with their hair neatly combed and tied. We, the owners, Malik as we are called, are also dressed in our best. Women in silk sarees and men in festive kurtas. Flowers adorn the hair and jewelry glitters on the neck, ears and wrists of the women. The men flaunt their gold chains and Rolex watches.
But it is my cousins who are the most excited. This time…it’s going to be different…they informed me. They’ve planned it all out. That overgrown green patch behind the factory. The weeds have been cleared. A music system installed to belt out Bollywood hits. There is going to be a party. Of course, the revelry will start after the Puja is over. I grimaced. I knew my opinion wouldn’t really count. I’ll just have to grin and bear it.
The rituals seem to go on forever. The smell of incense, camphor and flowers wafts through the premises. Neha, in a blue kurti and pants, is fidgeting. My elder sister, Simi di,in a pink saree, is chatting on the phone. My cousin, Adarsh bhaiyya, is looking bored. I worry if my sea green lehenga will be crumpled before the party starts.
Finally, the puja is over and the prasad distributed. My cousins rush towards the green patch. I accompany them pretending excitement. We stop at the edge of the factory shed and my cousins stare at the scene outside in dismay. None of them had noticed the thunderclouds on the way. It is raining. I hide a sign of relief.
One of the workers is hastily unplugging the music system to take it back inside.
Neha steps back to avoid getting her pants wet. She catches my eye and shrugs. I smile. I know they are new.
Simi di flicks her curls in disappointment. You can tell she doesn’t want to spoil her hair in the rain.
Adarsh bhaiyya, dispirited,has slumped on a chair.
Ketan Chacha pats me on my back sympathetically.
No party for my cousins. The rain has played spoilsport.
Mummy signals to us. It’s time for us to leave.
The cars are called right up the main gate so that we can escape getting soaked in the rain.
As I step into the car, I turn back to view the empty green patch. It isn’t empty. The children of the workers are dancing in the rain. I wonder what they are dancing to.The music system has gone but it hasn’t hindered them. I suspect someone is playing music on their phone. But no one has their phones out in their hands. Suddenly, I get it. The music is in their heads. Imagination is a powerful tool.
The girl in the old faded frock. Drenched. Her hair plastered over her face. Her eyes closed and her face facing upwards welcoming the raindrops. Her hands moving rhythmically.
The dark boy in a pair of shorts and a red T-shirt worn out at the edges. Barefoot in the grass. Dancing to the cadence of the drums only he can hear.
The workers are indulgently gesturing to their children to get back inside.
I run towards the green patch.
I throw my shoes away and step into the dance floor filled with slush and mud.
I raise my hands in the air and step to the beat of the heavens sprinkling its blessings on me. I can feel the pulse of each raindrop falling on the grass… on every part of my body. My feet are moving effortlessly. One, two, one two and twirl. My hands.. ..joyous and free….in tandem with the melody of nature.
My family is wildly gesticulating to get out of the torrential rain. I can’t hear them. I told you I have my own limitations. In the polite sophisticated world I live in, I’m referred to as a person with a hearing disability. The maid in my house calls me deaf. But today, I can hear the music. It’s deafening. It’s what I want it to be. Lord Vishwakarma isn’t just the God of inanimate machines. He perhaps is the God of the animate body, the greatest most divine machine in the world. Lord Nataraja, the cosmic dancer and Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of learning and knowledge seem to have also stepped in. I’ve learnt to dance. Finally.
puja : ceremonial worship of a Hindu deity
panditji : priest
di : elder sister
bhaiyya : elder brother
chacha : uncle, father’s brother
prasad : a devotional offering made to a god, typically consisting of food that is later shared among devotees.